Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 398

Issue # 398                                                                     Week ending 29th April 2017

Why Don’t Librarians Tell People to Shush Any More? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It conjures up images of boffins, slide rules, test tubes and wallcharts. Research. Whether it’s political research, scientific research or just putting the word Google in the top bar on your screen, it is a bit geeky. It’s also a bit cool to use a search engine compared to hours of pestering Stornoway librarians on which are the best books about Kilimanjaro. They sometimes did not have to find the books. Are you sure it is in Tanzania and not Tasmania? You sure it is made up of three volcanoes and one is only sleeping while the others are dead? Wow.

These dedicated servants of the inquisitive are a walking, talking national resource which is now unused. I wonder if that is why students say libraries are getting noisier and they are unable to study there. Is it because the Google-effect means librarians have more time to have a natter with colleagues and users? Are they not shushing loud offenders in case they too stop coming in? Either way, students tell me the volume of library chatter nowadays is ridiculous and is chasing them away.

I was chased away last weekend and ended up at an informal get-together in my former home village of Tobson on the golden island of Great Bernera. Who came in but the young singer, Niamh Smith. She sings like a lark and plays guitar and, wait till you hear this, she is only ... 12. I have slippers that are older than her. Look up Niamh Smith on Youtube. When I was that age the only talent I had was making rude noises under my arm. Tobson has changed.

She does The House That Built Me, which a few years ago went to Number 1 in the U.S. country charts for country singer Miranda Lambert. Niamh gave us renditions of songs, some going back to the 1960s. She gave us Sloop John B, first popularly recorded in the 1950s by the Kingston Trio. Of course, everyone prefers the Beach Boys version a decade later even though Johnny Cash and many others had a decent try.

“So hoist up the John B's sail, see how the mainsail sets.
Call for the Captain ashore, let me go home, let me go home.”

I was home. I just wept. Water, water everywhere and not a Kleenex to be found. When you’ve had a dram or two, these lyrics come into your brain automatically. No research needed. To those distinguished names who have hoisted the John B’s sail, you may now add Niamh Smith from Tobson, that scenic village full of lovely, talented people by An t-Òb.

Those who don’t do research properly can regret it. I am thinking of the Children of the Atom. That new quirkily-named political party was due to relaunch by announcing their candidate in the Western Isles to fight the General Election.  They planned to replace income tax with a 10% tax on people’s bank deposits. The rich would pay the most and the poorest in society would pay, well, pretty much nothing at all. I could vote for that. Then they said every citizen, including children, would be paid an average wage of about £27,600 a year for life. Yep, I could vote for that too. Come on, what else?

But the atomists wanted families to be fined for having too many babies. As a father-of-one who has heard of the theory that if you cannot afford to buy for seven what you would give one child, then your kids will be scarred for life, I can see some people nodding sagely at the prospect of population reduction. You know what? They didn’t do their research. I can just hear the Free Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics, both in the Hebrides and often commented on for their large families, roaring: “You can not be serious.”

We know it works elsewhere. However, what works in People’s Republic of China may not work in the People’s Republic of Castlebay. Sadly, for those who thought we were actually going to have an interesting election, according to some news reports COTA have cancelled their bid to achieve world domination from their HQ in Point.

Mrs X was shouting at me recently to do some research myself. Before going out to the shops, she shouted up the stairs to my office: “I want you to find out why my computer is so slow. And what do you want for your dinner?” One thing at a time, I thought to myself. After careful investigation I shouted back: “Lack of RAM.” She didn’t quite understand but at least I enjoyed my dinner of rack of lamb.

Voting Tory Gives Support to ‘Rape Clause’, Says Angus Robertson
A vote for the Tories in the general election will be a vote in support of the so-called rape clause, SNP depute leader Angus Robertson has said. The MP was asked on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme whether the SNP would limit tax credits to two children, as proposed by the Conservatives, or keep the existing policy.  He said: “What you’re talking about here is is what is more generally known and understood as the rape clause, which unfortunately the Tories in Scotland have been running away from ever since it was passed. The SNP’s position is that we support its repeal at Westminster, that is where our focus is, and if ever we wanted a timely reminder that the Tories are the nasty party it is this heinous rape clause.  The more SNP MPs there are at Westminster, the louder the voice will be against the rape clause.  Anybody voting Tory unfortunately will be contributing towards an excuse that this is an appropriate policy, it’s not.”

Coastline Trail Steps Towards its Completion

The John O’Groats Trail could be up and running by next spring with work on it progressing much quicker than expected.  That is the upbeat view of Jay Wilson – the man behind the trail – who is delighted with the support and enthusiasm the project has elicited. The trail follows the coast from Inverness to John O’Groats in a bid to avoid having to walk the A9. It is aimed at promoting tourism in the coastal towns and villages and attractions along its length.  Volunteers have been working to build stiles and bridges along it as well as putting markers in place. A working day saw 10 people – one from Dornoch – turn out to the Berriedale area, where they cut whins and placed markers. The group also did a walk with the Sutherland Walkers Group from Dunbeath to Lybster. Mr Wilson was pleased to see the stiles they have built and a bridge he was worried might have been washed out over winter were still in place.  The group has received a sample of official trail signs and used one on a post on their working day. It has ordered 2000 for the trail and volunteers will be out placing them over the next few months.  The trail recently got funding from Your Cash Your Caithness, Caithness and North Sutherland Fund and Tannach and District Wind Farm Charitable Trust. Mr Wilson said: “We are putting that money into a website upgrade and a map of the trail which will be published by Harvey Maps. It will also pay for putting in stiles and bridges. We have got money to hire a contractor to build some things to accelerate our work.  We have got about 30 stiles left to build and there are a few more bridges and a couple of big bridges to build. We are aiming for a grand opening in spring of 2018. It’s been much quicker than I thought and anyone thought.  The big thing is that we have been really lucky with our biggest and most important volunteers – the land owners who are voluntarily giving permission for the trail to be marked and built.”  The group is always looking for more volunteers and welcomes donations to help towards ongoing costs.  Volunteer co-ordinator Charlie Bain, of Wick, said: “It’s good to see a professional marker sign on a post rather than a spot of paint. It shows the trail is happening and given time could be as popular as other long distant trails.”

Eight-year-old Boy Breaks Club Record
A young runner shocked his coaches by beating the multistage fitness test they use to train athletes.  Eight-year-old, Dylan Mackay is the youngest child to have beaten the beep test in the 17 years that John-Alisdair MacAuley has been coaching.  Dylan now holds the record at his local club.Mr MacAuley said: "Dylan started the beep test 3 years ago and since then has been getting progressively better. " Last year he was close to beating the P3 record at 220 and he wanted to beat that this year. He showed so much focus for someone so young it is really amazing."  He added: "I have done this with adult shinty teams. Some can only do 200, some struggle at 190."  The beep test is a progressive race against the clock. Each runner has to go the length of the room before the next beep. The time between the beeps gets smaller and smaller so that the runners are forced to gradually up their speed.  Mr MacAuley said: "To be able to complete the test age eight is really impressive, I don’t think I could complete it anymore."

10 Places to Visit in Scotland You May Not Know About
Scotland is famed for its beautiful landscapes and welcoming people and there are many a tourist guide that cover the length and breadth of the country, however not all attractions are as well known as Edinburgh Castle or the Fairy Pools of Skye.  Here are a few hidden gems across the country you might like to check out.

01/ The Electric Brae, Ayrshire
Scotland's very own magic road where the laws of physics don't seem to apply, as on this part of the A719 near Ayr, cars appear to roll uphill.  As mysterious as this may seem, it turns out that the Electric Brae is a 'gravity hill' and an optical illusion, where the surrounding scenery makes a slope with a slight decline look like it is going up the way.  It's a fun place to watch children's faces light up as they witness something truly strange.

02/ Kagyu Samye Ling
Looking like it has been transported from some where in the Far East, Kagyu Samye Ling is the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to have been established in the West, it's also the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Europe  Founded in 1967, the Centre is located on the banks of the river Esk in the Dumfries and it's a wonderfully tranquil place to escape the rigours of modern Scotland.

03/ Dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point, Moray Firth
Described as the best place to watch dolphins in Scotland, Chanonry Point, near Fortrose, is a spit of land jutting out into the Moray Firth and on the rushing tides that swirl dangerously just off shore you can catch sight of bottlenose dolphins as they feed. When they jump into the air you might be forgiven for thinking you are in an aquarium, not standing on a small beach. A stunning place to witness these majestic creatures in their own habitat without having to fork out loads of money for a boat trip.

04/ St Ninian's Cave, Galloway
This cave lies on the south coast of the Machars of Galloway, south-west of Whithorn and much like its famous cousin (Fingal's Cave) on Staffa, holds a deep mystery that's worth taking the trip to check out.  Excavations in the 1880s around the cave, found carvings with crosses and other designs which dated back to the 700s and 800s adding to the belief that the cave was (and still is) a place of worship for pilgrims.  Named after Saint Ninian himself, it has never been confirmed whether he ever visited the cave.

05/ Fast Castle, The Borders
There is no tearoom, no guidebook and no entrance fee, and you have to walk along a cliff top path to reach it. But Fast Castle is as dramatic as castles go.  Perched on a rocky precipice, the ruins of this fortification are about as out of the way as it gets but they are hauntingly beautiful and well worth the effort to visit.

06/Kennetpans Distillery
Go back to one of the places that helped forge the transition from farm industry to world-wide commercial business for the Scottish whisky industry.  Both the Haig brand and the most famous Irish whiskey brands (Jamesons) have their roots at Kennetpans, and though the distillery is little more than a ruin now it's a must see for any whisky fan.

07/St Aloysius Church, Glasgow
In the Garnethill area of Glasgow you will find St Aloysius’ Roman Catholic Church, which boasts a stunningly opulent interior and houses a copy of the famous Our Lady of Montserrat statue - the Black Madonna - one of only two outside Catalonia.

08/Staffin Bay Footprints, Isle of Skye
Take the kids in back in time with a trip to Corran, close to Staffin Bay in the north of Isle of Skye, to find a rock formation on which is imprinted the footprints of dinosaurs that walked there 170 million years ago.

09/Picnic with parachutists in Perthshire
Rural Perthshire is well known for its natural beauty and attracts visitors all year round. Among the rolling fields close to Auchterarder there is a little country airfield which is the base for a parachute club – to watch them gently glide down to Earth can be fascinating for both the young and old alike.  The Strathallan club don't mind you parking up and spectating from the sidelines, as long as you keep outwith the landing site and keep any pets under control. Enjoy a family day out in the countryside while watching exhilarating aerial manoeuvres.

10/ Meikleour Beech Hedge, Perthshire
The Meikleour Beech Hedge in Perthshire is a living wall of trees, 100ft high and a third of a mile long. It was planted in 1745 and is the highest hedge in the world.  However, it was not nosey neighbours which prompted such a creation, but an act of love.  It is said Jean Mercer of Meikleour allowed the hedge to grow to such a fantastic height in memory of her late husband, Robert Murray Nairne, who was killed at the battle of Culloden. The hedge had originally been planted by the couple to mark a boundary.  In autumn, the green leaves turn a wonderful bronze colour and make for a most unusual sight.

Report Calls for ‘Bespoke Immigration Policy’ for Scotland
A new report for a Holyrood committee has highlighted how bespoke immigration measures could be implemented in Scotland, based on international examples.  Powers over immigration are currently reserved to Westminster, but the decision to leave the European Union has prompted calls for a distinct policy north of the border.  The Scottish Parliament’s European Committee published a report in February calling for a bespoke solution to be considered, because the demographic risk Scotland faces if the number of EU migrants drops is ‘’more acute’’ than for the UK as a whole.  The committee commissioned research which looked at international case studies including Catalonia and the Basque Country in Spain, Quebec and Prince Edward Island in Canada and the State of South Australia to examine a range of potential options for Scotland.  The report by Dr Eve Hepburn lists 20 ways in which Scotland could adopt bespoke immigration policies, including a new postgraduate work visa, the creation of temporary work permits for seasonal migrants, international outreach to advertise Scotland as a destination for EU migrants and devolving administrative aspects of immigration.  Committee convener Joan McAlpine said: “With our committee having previously recognised the need for a bespoke immigration system for Scotland, I welcome this new academic study which details international precedent of how this is already happening, in countries such as Australia, Canada, Spain and Switzerland. This report shows that there are sensible and straightforward ways for us to secure a bespoke system of immigration that addresses the specific needs of Scotland, even while the UK Government takes a different approach.”

New Dawn for Iconic Church of Scotland Magazine
A new chapter has opened in the history of Life and Work, the 138-year-old magazine of the Church of Scotland.  The magazine is now available for the first time to digital subscribers, bringing the church’s magazine to a new global online audience.  The digital title, compatible across all devices, has been trialled since January with ministers and parish magazine editors, who previously received print copies, now receiving an online digital copy edition to read instead.  Following positive feedback, the title has now been launched for sale to consumers around the world via the magazine’s website and distributed via online magazine store Pocketmags.  From May 2017 It will also be available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.  Editor Lynne McNeil said: “This heralds the start of a new age for Life and Work and will allow the exciting and diverse contents of the magazine to be enjoyed by a wider audience, not simply within Scotland and local congregations, but around the world.”  The move to digital followed a review of the business functions of the magazine which reported to the Church’s annual business meeting, the General Assembly, in 2015 and recommended that a digital edition of the magazine be established.

Lockerbie Bomber's Family Will Begin Bid to Appeal Against Conviction
The family of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi will launch a bid to appeal against his conviction within a fortnight.  Lawyer Aamer Anwar confirmed files will be handed to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).  The SCCRC will decide whether there are grounds to refer the case to the appeal court.  Megrahi's widow Aisha and son Ali met recently with Mr Anwar.  It is believed they will present concerns over the evidence which convicted the Libyan, including that given by Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who died last year.  Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the 1988 atrocity which killed 270 people.  He was jailed for 27 years but died of prostate cancer aged 60 in 2012 after being released on compassionate grounds in 2009.  Megrahi lost an appeal against his conviction in 2002, with the SCCRC recommending in 2007 that he should be granted a second appeal.  He dropped the second attempt to overturn his conviction in 2009, ahead of his return to Libya.

Argyll Groups Compete for Gaelic Funding
Residents of Argyll and Bute are invited to vote for their favourite projects promoting Gaelic. Argyll and Bute Council secured £15,000 of Scottish Government funding to let communities decide how to ‘strengthen and grow Gaelic’ in the area.  Community groups and constituted not-for profit organisations have put forward ideas for how the money could be spent and members of the public are now invited to vote for which ideas they would like to be funded. There are 14 projects competing for funding in Argyll and Bute.  Ideas are wide-ranging, encompassing education, music and culture. The voting process, known as participatory budgeting, aims to engage local people by letting them vote on budget decisions that affect their community and to give locals a sense of ownership over community issues. Anyone who lives in Argyll and Bute and is aged 16 or over can vote online and choose which projects will receive a share of the funding.  Aspiring Gaelic singers were in full voice as traditional music sensation Robert Robertson, former Skipinnish frontman, stopped by to lend a helping hand.  The Coisir og Dhail Riata choir met in Lochgilphead for a very special rehearsal as they continue their preparations for a number of upcoming events.  Robert said: ‘I was very impressed. I was only there to offer my opinion where I could, and I was delighted to do so.’

Six Scots Firms Scoop Queen’s Awards for Enterprise

Six Scottish companies have been honoured in this year’s Queen’s Awards for Excellence, it was announced today.  City Legacy Homes – the consortium of Glasgow housebuilders CCG, Cruden, Mactaggart & Mickel and WH Malcolm that was behind the 2014 Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village – scooped an award in the sustainable development category, as did CMS Window Systems of Cumbernauld.  City Legacy director John Gallacher said: “The Village has won many awards in the past, but this one is extra-special. To be given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the wonderful journey that The Village has taken us on here at City Legacy. It really is the icing on the cake.”  Clyde Space, the developer of miniature satellites, picked up an innovation award, while fellow Glasgow firms ClinTec International and M Squared Lasers were honoured in the international trade category alongside Glencairn Crystal of East Kilbride, which has now won three Queen’s Awards.  Glencairn managing director Paul Davidson said: “We are delighted to be awarded such an incredible and highly esteemed award once again.”  UK business secretary Greg Clark said: “The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise highlights everything that’s great about UK business today.  We have some of the best entrepreneurs and innovative minds in the world who are at the heart of small start-ups providing excellent customer service to larger businesses developing global solutions. Over one million new businesses have been created since 2010, all playing a vital role in creating jobs and driving growth across the UK.”

Let’s Grow More Scottish Unicorns by Fiona Godsman
If you look hard enough you’ll find unicorns in Scotland. From the mercat cross in Melrose, to Falcon Square in Inverness, this mythical beast can be found adorning our historical landmarks.  Seen as a symbol of purity and strength, the unicorn became our national animal in the 1300s, but its existence only disproved some 500 years later. However, its spirit lives on in our national psyche, not least in the creation of the next wave of business unicorns. Adopting such a mythical term for a successful business may seem an unfitting moniker, but Scotland can point to real-life examples – Skyscanner and BrewDog, to name but two. Scotland has long served as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity, resulting in many ground-breaking business ideas. In Glasgow alone, an average of 22 new companies are born a day.  We are at another crossroad of political change, but we mustn’t allow potential uncertainty to affect the number of businesses created in Scotland. Our economy is strong, with a wealth of medium to large companies that we shouldn’t take for granted. However, where we are likely to see real and much-needed growth is in our SMEs and start-ups. This means equipping young people with the entrepreneurial mindset to succeed; the support, environment and tools needed to generate an idea that can be turned into a commercial viability. Adopting this mindset now can prepare new businesses for the challenges caused by political uncertainty, ensuring that these companies not only have enough room to start up, but to succeed.  Scotland has an impressive network of successful business accelerators, but more can be done to harness the creativity and ingenuity of our young people at the conception stage. Where better environment to provide this support than in our world-leading universities and colleges, where creativity is fuelled and ambition knows no boundaries. We can encourage students to take higher education further than the end of a course, allowing us to set new limits and broaden horizons. At the Scottish Institute for Enterprise we’re working with students from across the country, helping to cultivate their ideas, and providing essential start-up support. We’ve already seen a number of success stories; from Rebecca Pick’s Pick Protection, which recently secured more than 7100,000 in funding, to Chris McCann’s snap40, which recently secured a £1 million NHS contract. Both are great examples of the impact of incorporating innovation and enterprise to academia.  These relatively fledgling businesses have been fed on a diet of hard work, encouragement, and the right environment. Let’s not confine the concept of unicorns to history, but harness the entrepreneurial energy and innovation happening all over Scotland right this very second.

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Gifts to A 14-year-old Soldier

They are small, special tokens of appreciation from Bonnie Prince Charlie to a loyal servant who signed up to the Jacobite army when aged just 14.  William Home, from Duns in Berwickshire, received a quaich, a medallion and a miniature of the Prince in recognition of his service during the 1745 rebellion, after which he was captured and sentenced to the death penalty. Born in 1731, Home joined the Jacobite army initially as a coronet and then as Ensign in Lord Balmerino’s Life Guards.  Fighting at Prestonpans, Falkirk and Culloden, Ensign Home carried the regimental standard onto the battlefield and occasionally acted as an aide-de-camp to Charles Edward Stuart.  The soldier survived the rising and, following Culloden, made his way to Ruthven Barracks by Kingussie to hear Lord George Murray, the Jacobite general, tell his soldiers to “shift for ourselves as there were no more occasion for our services”.  Catriona McIntosh, head education guide at Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, said: “Home was then captured and held initially at Stirling Castle then transported to Carlisle.  He was sentenced to the death penalty, and considerable efforts were taken to secure him a reprieve.”  Home directly petitioned George II for his release, describing himself as a “your unhappy petitioner” who was “first seduced to depart from his allegiance” when just 14.  The young soldier described himself as “fitter to be employed at school, than waging a rebellion…” Further petitions were made by his family, who enlisted the help of the 8th Earl of Home, who fought for the British at the Battle of Prestonpans.  In November 1746, Home was secured a reprieve from the death sentence on condition of transportation for indentured service,  However, he was ultimately exiled to live on the continent. Home served as a Colonel in the Prussian army of Fredrick the Great and in 1774 he returned to Scotland where he lived for the rest of his life.  He died in 1794, aged 63.  His three gifts from Bonnie Prince Charlie were donated to the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre by the Logan-Home family with other items in the collection including a cavalry carbine used during the rising.  Ms McIntosh said William Home was not the only boy of his age to fight on either side of the rebellion. She added: “What is really important to remember is that in the 1740s you could be deemed an adult in their mid-teens and individuals who we would now recognise as children and young people, were not protected from joining or being signed up to military forces.  “Both armies at Culloden had boys aged 13 and upwards enlisted. From Drummer Boys, Ensigns, Standard Bearers and Baggagemen they would have carried out many tasks as well as soldiering.”  The youngest fighter taken into custody during the 1745 rising was seven-year-old William Cosby, the son of an Irish weaver. Both had served in the Manchester Regiment, which held Carlisle after its capture in November 1745, and both were taken prisoner after it was seized by Cumberland’s men once Bonnie Prince Charlie retreated north.  William’s father was sentenced to death but won a reprieve on the day of execution, according to John Prebble’s Culloden. With no record of what happened the boy, it has been suggested he died in Carlisle Prison. Records shows there were several fathers and sons who signed up together, Ms McIntosh said.  Hugh Roy, age 14 from Aberdeenshire joined the Duke of Perth’s with his father, John Roy.  Both were taken prisoner at Carlisle but the father died in prison before trial and Hugh was pardoned on enlisting in the Government army.  Captain William Gordon, 15, the grandson of Gordon of Glenbucket, fought at Culloden and escaped to Sweden with his father and grandfather. Ms McIntosh added: “During times of conflict families and children are always caught up- and the ’45 was no different.”

Nicola Sturgeon Rules Out Coalitions After Council Elections

The First Minister has ruled out any coalitions between SNP and Tory councillors after the forthcoming local authority elections.  She urged people to vote SNP for "strong champions in local councils".  After the 2012 council elections the SNP formed coalitions with the Tories in Dumfries and Galloway and in East Ayrshire.  Asked on BBC Scotland whether the SNP would be willing to go into coalition with Tories in some councils, she replied: " No. The SNP national executive committee took the decision on Saturday that we wouldn't have coalitions with the Tories after these elections and the reason for that is simple. We are looking at a Tory party that is moving further and further to the right.  The Tory party has been taken over by its right wing. I don't want those right wing Tories taking over council services."  She added: "We're facing a Tory party that is increasingly in thrall to its own right wing and I don't want to see a Tory party obsessed with austerity, with cuts, in control of local services.  I'm being frank with the people of Scotland, I don't think it's in the interests of local services for the Conservatives to run them so I'm arguing in this campaign for votes for the SNP to put the SNP in the strongest possible position coming out of these elections to protect local services and to protect Scotland from the impact and the implications of Conservatives running these services."  Ms Sturgeon urged people to look carefully at local issues when deciding who to vote for on May 4.  She said: " This is about your local services, it's about who you think is best placed to protect those local services and one of the big risks in this election which perhaps wasn't so obvious last time around is the risk of local services falling into the hands of the Tories.  If you don't want that then vote SNP for strong champions in local councils protecting your services."

Achiltibuie Welcomes One of First Community-owned Turbines in the Highlands
A remote Highland community has welcomed the benefits of blades turning on a new £1.8million wind turbine project.  The Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) based in Wester Ross expects over £2million of community benefit funds over the 20 year life of the turbine, which is believed to be the first large community-owned turbine in mainland Highland.  The turbine, near Achiltibuie, is now producing power which is supplied to the National Grid. The resulting income will be used to improve local services and infrastructure, help establish new businesses, provide bursaries and fund training for all ages. It is owned and managed by Coigach Community CiC, a subsidiary set up by CCDC, and supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).  Achiltibuie is in the Coigach Peninsula, which covers 15,500 hectares including around 20 small islands known as the Summer Isles and is designated a National Scenic Area. It is characterised by rugged coastline, high mountains and large stretches of boggy moorland. The total population is 271. Iain Muir, chairman of CCDC, said: “Like the road to Achiltibuie, the journey has been long, narrow and winding, and not without its pot-holes, precipitous roadside drops and things jumping out in front of us, but finally we’ve reached our goal and it’s fantastic to see the blades turning.  It’s taken so many years of dedicated voluntary effort by members of the community as well as our staff. However, splendid though the turbine is, it’s simply a means to an end – its job is to generate funds for us to plough into our community to secure a bright future for present generations and those yet to come.”  Since joining HIE’s community account management programme in 2010, CCDC has appointed two part-time local development officers (LDOs) to take forward a range of projects with potential to generate income and improve sustainability in the area. These focus on renewables, provision of commercial premises, housing, tourism (including piers and harbours), land and environment. In addition to support the LDO salaries, HIE has also been able to help fund costs of feasibility studies and technical consultations for the turbine. The commencement of power, and therefore income, generation from the turbine is a significant step for the community.

Australian and New Zealand Tourists Join in Anzac Tribute in Wick
A Memorial service to remember men from Caithness who served with Anzac forces received a surprise visit when over 40 tourists from Australia and New Zealand attended the ceremony at Wick Cemetery.  Wick Royal British Legion held an Anzac service on Tuesday to remember the lives of Caithness men who served with Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I and World War II.  A bus tour packed with tourists from Australia and New Zealand who were travelling to Orkney but were left stranded when their ferry got cancelled decided to attend the service in Wick instead.

White Powder Package Threat to Scots Politicians

Several packages containing “suspicious” white powder have been sent to politicians’ offices across Scotland.  The targets included the SNP’s headquarters in Edinburgh.  Three packages containing a “white powder” were delivered to the office of the Nationalist MP John Nicholson in East Dunbartonshire on Tuesday.  A separate package was delivered to the Angus Council offices in Forfar on Wednesday containing a message “Get SNP out. Tories In.”  Police have issued advice about dealing with suspicious packages after the string of incidents.  A statement issued to MSPs Thursday by Scottish Parliament security chiefs said: “All packages were associated with the forthcoming UK general election.  Police Scotland’s enquiries into this matter are ongoing.”  A letter from Police Scotland has also been distributed to MSPs with further advice regarding mail handling, suspicious packages and indicators of “white powder”.

Caithness Wizard Features on TV Series
A television series is set to head to Caithness to find out the story behind a wizard who lived in the county 800 years ago. The People’s History Show will focus on the adventures of a 13th-century wizard called Murdo Rivach.  In 2006, Wick-born historian and show presenter Ashley Cowie discovered the wizard’s grave while he was visiting his home county.  He recovered a unique stone relic believed to be imbued with magical powers. The show tells the story of Murdo Rivach, and Scotland’s tradition of holy stones.  The feature of Murdo Rivach will be aired on the final episode of the series next week.  Mr Cowie who has travelled the world making and presenting documentaries said having the opportunity to head back north on the show was extra special.  He said: “The history of Scotland is found not only in books, but in the stories and folklore of its people.  This series is extra special to me as we travelled the length of Scotland and filmed some great characters in my home county of Caithness, giving the show a truly nationwide appeal.”

Plans for New 'Sanctuary' At Stoer Church

Exciting plans are in the offing to bring life back to a redundant Free Church in north west Sutherland.  Cheshire based life coach and therapist Maurice Tomkinson is hoping to turn Stoer Church into a small residential education and activity centre.  A planning application for change of use has been lodged with Highland Council.  Stoer Church is located off the B869 single track road in the crofting hamlet of Rienachait, just north of Stoer. The single-storey, stone building, which is thought to date back to 1850, was in use until 2013 when a dwindling congregation led the church to put the building on the market. Mr Tomkinson first came across the church when he was on holiday in the area about eight years ago. He said: “I really like the area and what particularly impressed me was when I learned about the crofters buying the estate. That really appealed to me. I also liked the fact that there is all this wilderness that you can go and explore.”  Mr Tomkinson is the founder and director of the Hope Street Centre in Sandbach, Cheshire. More than 40 therapists work at the centre offering a variety of coaching and complementary therapies as well as coaching and motivational programmes.  He said the new facility at Stoer Church would be called The Sanctuary and would form an outpost to his Cheshire centre.  It would offer bunk bed accommodation for up to 12 people, education, training activities and retail sales. Activities planed range from hill walking, fishing and canoeing to hiking, survival skills and growing crops.  But it is also intended to hold workshops on subjects such as meditation, team work, resilience, climate change and stress and creativity.  Plans include a new outbuilding for traditional craft workshops including wood turning, spinning, textile weaving and pottery. Mr Tomkinson said: “We would particularly like to offer courses and information linked to the geopark status of the area, such as guided tours, lectures and field trips.”  A new access is also proposed along with six parking bays.  Mr Tomkinson said: “Our aim is to provide a new facility rather than compete with existing businesses; a facility which will enrich the experience of people who are already visiting the area on holiday as well as bringing new visitors to the area who are attracted by specific courses.”  If planning consent is granted, work on the building is not expected to start until next year.  Mr Tomkinson continued: “It is going to take a few months to get planning consent and a building warrant. I am probably thinking about getting started early next spring.  It is difficult to say how long it is going to take, maybe a year. I am hoping to do some of the work and get volunteers involved to keep the costs down. It will be great to have the church back in use again because it is a lovely building but is suffering from a lack of mainte
nance.”